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Here's To 'Real' Oilfield Technology

"Technology," and how it pertains to the shale phenomena, is a very loosey-goosey, much over-used term on the internet these days. If you have absolutely no knowledge of how the oilfield works, the word technology explains a lot of otherwise unexplainable stuff. For instance, take the phrase, "stage frac'ing." That stimulation procedure was first used in vertical carbonate wells in the Luling Branyon (Austin Chalk) Field in South Central Texas in the early 1970's. We called them Pine Island frac's back then, a term that originated in Northern Louisiana. Frac'ing and horizontal drilling have been around for a long time; 50 years or more, actually. The shale industry didn't invent any of that.

Frac sand mine

So, stage frac'ing horizontal, unconventional shale wells really can't be described as a breakthrough in new technology. It is merely an obvious extension of old techniques necessary to extract oil from really crummy rock. And stuffing more frac sand into a horizontal shale well to increase productivity is no miracle of technological advancement either. To get all those thousands of pounds of sand per perforated foot to where it belongs in a long horizontal shale lateral just takes more horsepower and a whole lot more water. Whoop.

Now THIS is what you call, real oilfield technology:

This is the Troll 'A' Platform built for Norkse Shell beginning in 1991 and currently operated by Statoil in the Troll Gas Field in the Norwegian Sector of the North Sea.

Toll A platform being topped off, 1995.

Toll A under tow in 1996; headed to sea.

Troll A platform, and two other platforms, Troll B & C, in the Troll Gas Field provide 40% of all of Norway's natural gas export capacity.

Troll Gas Field was discovered in 1979; first production occurred in 1996. It originally contained 50.6 TCF of recoverable gas and 1.74 GBO of recoverable oil.

West Troll Field, including underlying oil columns on the extreme west flank, is seen here.Troll A processing and compression platform in the larger, East Troll Field is in the direction of red arrows. Please note sub-sea well head locations and production manifolds on the sea floor.

The Troll A platform has an overall height of 472 metres (1,549 ft), weighs 683,600 tons (1.2 million tons with ballast) and has the distinction of being the tallest and heaviest structure ever moved by mankind.

Inside one of Troll A's reinforced, cylindrical concrete "legs," looking up toward the surface.

Troll A Platform in a "calm" North Sea

In 2006, the 10th anniversary of Statoil's operatorship of Troll gas production was celebrated with a concert by Katie Melua held at the base of one of the hollow legs of the platform. She entertained workers on the rig and the event set a new world record for the deepest underwater concert at 303 metres (900 feet) below sea level.

The development of Troll Gas Field was an engineering marvel. The development of the entire North Sea was the sort of "technology" that helped make the world a better place with cheap, plentiful hydrocarbons.

At Oily we'll do what we can over the ensuing months to introduce you to what we believe is real oilfield technology. Oilfield technology that has little do with cramming a lot of sand into dense, asphalt-like rock to access marginal, very high-decline production... but the kind oil and natural gas that made the industrialized world what it is today. We'll try and show things like extended reach drilling off the east coast of Russia, well designs for deepwater, sub-salt wells, subsidence in the North Sea and remedial efforts to save the overlying platform, the first sub-sea capping of a blowout in Venezuela, some CO2 EOR projects, onshore West Texas, that sort of really cool stuff.

The worldwide oil and gas industry has a rich history of amazing accomplishments. We should look back and celebrate them.

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